couple talking about moneyBy MP Dunleavey
You're well aware money talks, but did you know it also pays off to talk about money? Find out how to have a constructive conversation about finances. Photo by Getty Images.
WHAT'S THE PAYOFF?
Healthier family finances and less relationship strife
WHY YOU SHOULDN'T AVOID IT
While talking about money is stressful, not talking about it leads to even greater conflict, which is why money issues are a top source of marital misery. Getting financially in sync can help you work together toward mutual goals, which will make you both happier.
1. Agree to Have a Real Conversation
Most couples "talk" about money in a drive-by style-as they're deciding to buy something, when the bills come in, or when there's not enough cash on hand for something one of you feels you need. You open a credit card bill and the next thing out of your mouth is, "You spent how much? You need to be more responsible!" These little money bombs can be hurtful and provoke a never-ending series of squabbles. I can tell you that from personal experience-my husband and I are veterans of the money wars.
So, first things first: See if your husband will agree to sit down and talk about money when there's nothing else going on (and the TV is off!). I dialed down the stress by making sure my husband knew my purpose in initiating our chat was to reduce conflict, not to argue-something I knew he wanted, too. Tell him that the purpose of the talk is to focus on the greater good for you and your family, so you can move forward together in a way that works for both of you.
Related: Check out the 10 things your husband should never do.
2. Listen. For Real.
If you've been together awhile, each of you has probably been typecast by the other (fairly or unfairly) and the "you always do that" reaction is entrenched. Old beefs loom large (he got new bowling shoes while you're trying to save for a vacation). You may be so peeved deep down that you barely hear each other. Shift to a positive place with this open-listening exercise:
√ Before you chat, each of you should make a list of points you want to convey to your partner.
√ Sit facing each other, with nothing between you. Pick a speaker and a listener to start (you'll swap roles).
√ Set a timer for 2 minutes, and let the speaker air his or her concerns until it goes off. The speaker should start each sentence with I instead of you to avoid blaming the other, and not use judgmental words, like irresponsible or stupid. "I get worried when we dip into our savings" is better than "You always take our money and spend it on dumb things!" Stick to facts and how you feel, not judgments of the other person's actions.
√ Next, the other person reflects back what he or she heard. If you said, "I don't like that we use the ATM constantly," your spouse might say, "So you're worried about us taking out too much cash." If he doesn't quite grasp it, clarify until he does. The listener is not supposed to comment or defend himself. He should instead only mirror back what the speaker is saying.
√ Swap roles. No wisecracks. The goal is to simply hear your spouse's concerns and to feel heard yourself.
√ If things get heated, take a 20-minute break and try again, sticking to facts and feelings.
This kind of conversation will be hard at first and may not always result in smiles. That's OK: The point is to start talking, whatever that looks like to you. Understanding your partner's point of view-enough so that you can work together-is what matters.
SOURCES: Brad Klontz and Barbara Nusbaum, psychologists specializing in financial issues
Related: Discover the 9 fights you should have with your husband.
Now that you've laid your money cards on the table, a few top issues will emerge: He thinks you're spending too much on the kids, say, or you aren't saving enough for retirement.
Over the next day or two, each of you should make a wish list of things you'd like to work toward. Five items is plenty, and again, keep it factual. Sit down and draw a diagram of two circles that overlap like the MasterCard symbol. Inside that middle space, write down any goals from your lists that you share. In the outer part of the left- and right-hand circles, write down the goals that don't overlap.
Those items in the middle are where you are primed to make progress. If nothing overlaps, pick a single goal from each of your individual lists that you are both willing to work toward. Never mind if none of them is your top priority (or his). The point is to celebrate that you're on the same team, finally.
"I Made a Small Change"
As their wedding approached, money tensions began to heat up between Stacy Mafera, 31, and her fiancé, Rick Doherty. Embarrassed by her credit card debt, Stacy avoided disclosing too much, which resulted in door-slamming arguments. But with their marriage around the corner (and the idea of starting a joint bank account looming), the Quincy, MA, couple finally sat down for a real talk.
"I just told him everything. He was open with his concerns, but he was very kind and understanding. We talked about ideas for fixing my finances: watching spending habits, canceling some of my accounts and consolidating debt with a lower-interest card. We figured out how to avoid this situation in the future. Now, we're able to talk about the big issues, and I no longer feel like I'm in this alone."
Related: Learn the 10 marriage rules you should break.
MP Dunleavey writes monthly in WD about easy moves you can make to improve your finances. She is the editor-in-chief of DailyWorth.com, a daily email about getting more out of your life and your money.
"Top Tips for Talking About Money with Your Husband" is part 4 of a multipart yearlong series.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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